YouTube’s new “Cobra Kai” series was recommended in the comments. The show takes place in the present day, 34 years after the original “Karate Kid” movie. It stars the same actors who played the protagonist Daniel LaRusso and his enemy Johnny Lawrence. Three decades after high school, Daniel owns an expanding chain of luxury auto dealerships. Johnny is down and out. The writers and producers (((echo))) heavily, but when do they not? We can enjoy commercial pop culture through a filter. My impressions while watching the first two episodes:
– Johnny’s license plate begins with “4DDT…” Besides the old ill-fated insecticide, those letters (DDT) were the name of a finishing move in 1980s professional wrestling. The camera zoomed in on the plates in the character-introduction moment, so they probably have meaning.
– When he fights the multiracial bully gang (one or two White preppies, one White chubster, one Asian, one nerdy black), it looks realistic. So when the fat guy bear-hugged Johnny and pushed him into a light pole, my interest was piqued, wondering how he’s getting out of it. He did, and it looked credible. Well done.
– His stepfather’s nurse, whom Johnny sees when he walks into his own apartment, having no idea who she is. It’s strange how the image of graceless black women is promoted. You’d figure she’d get her caboose off Johnny’s couch and at least introduce herself. Instead, she harrumphed something without taking her eyes off Johnny’s television. One might think that what’s being promoted, is a variation on the female Noble Savage, an earth-mother figure with a heart of gold and infinite common sense plus folksy advice… but one would be wrong. What’s being promoted, is conditioning that Whites ought to become accustomed to getting zero courtesy from a black, even in their own homes.
– Johnny’s drunk, he drives away somewhere. Foreigner song “Head Games” comes on his car radio as he’s reminiscing high school, depicted by scenes from the first “Karate Kid” movie. He smiles when recalling his ex-girlfriend Ali (young Elizabeth Shue), whom he lost to Daniel. From what I read ahead in the plot synopses, she does not make any appearances on the show. I wonder, how would the writers handle her character’s reunion with either Johnny or Daniel? Teen love passes. Or does it, if it’s the first big one? Certainly not, as far as these characters are concerned, in the minds of people who saw the original “Karate Kid” at 14.
Johnny is training his first student, Miguel, an awkward Hispanic kid with asthma and bully-problems. (An aside on the Great White Father misdirection that “Gran Torino” took in Eastwood’s character rejecting a White teen in favor of Hmongs: it’s a “Karate Kid” motif. Mr. Miyagi, after all, wasn’t mentoring a Japanese boy.)
So Johnny gives Miguel a lecture about not being a pussy and having balls, and Miguel says: “Don’t you think you’re doing a lot of genderizing?”
Johnny is genuinely confused by that dollop of late-rot cultural Marxism. Miguel helpfully clarifies: “My guidance counselor says that a lot of words perpetuate the sexist worldview that can trigger …”
Johnny: “QUIET!! From now on, you’ll not listen to your guidance counselor. You’ll listen to me. Is that understood?”
– You cheer for Johnny. By creators’ intent or not, I don’t know yet. You wonder if his Cobra Kai background will be his final corruption and undoing, and if so, will that be forced by the fiat of the show’s writers. At this point, everything about Johnny is like rivers of cleansing water.
– Shiksa-hate in the script, with the beautiful blonde (friend of Daniel LaRusso’s daughter) being gratuitously cruel.
– I don’t know what upper-class teenage life in Los Angeles is like. It’s shown here as multiracial, in a familiar sanitized sort of way.
– Fat black girl is a rocket scientist, just like those gals in “Hidden Figures.”
– Johnny is a deadbeat dad. His son is a juvenile delinquent but he looks good and healthy. Meanwhile Daniel LaRusso’s son, who is about 12 years old, is an obese, androgynous, video game-addicted boy who has no emotional connection with or respect for his father.
– Daniel loves his teenage daughter more than he does his son. With the boy, attempts at bonding are, per Mike and the Mechanics, “stilted conversations, I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got.” There is a flashback scene of him and his daughter, in her childhood, bonding over karate. No such flashbacks with the boy.
– Daniel confronts Johnny in the newly reopened Cobra Kai dojo. Knowing things about Daniel’s daughter and her friends that Daniel doesn’t know, Johnny speaks his parting words: “Get your house in order, LaRusso.”
That’s all I watched so far. So far, I recommend it.